Interview with Wayra’s Ann Parker, preceding the Startup Beers with Wayra event in Bucharest

As you probably already know, tonight Bucharest is the host of the Startup Beers with Wayra event. If you haven’t reserved a spot already, hurry up, there are only very few available tickets left!

To prepare for that, here’s a short interview with Ann Parker, Wayra’s Director of European Operations, who you’ll be meeting tonight. Read on for some info on Wayra and some hints about what to expect from tonight’s event:

How to Web: What sets Wayra apart from the other accelerators? Is there a specific type of startups that should be particularly interested in it? 

Ann Parker: So let me divide the answer to this question into two parts:

What sets us apart?

First, we build our own physical spaces, called Wayra Academies, for our start-ups to move in to once they are accepted into the program – since 2011 when we started in Columbia, we have built 12 Academies in 11 countries and invested in 180 start-ups in that time. We are currently building the Academy in Prague & it is shaping up to be our most beautiful one yet and our gateway to accelerating the best digital businesses in Central and Eastern Europe.

The successful teams can expect a state of the art purpose built space just for them. Each team is given a dedicated area for them to work for 6 months, with all the usual things you would expect of an office.

Along with the free office space, we also invest €40k in each team for which we take equity in their business of between 5-10%; this is based on the external valuation of their business. Where no external valuation exists, that’s fine, we operate under a convertible loan note structure so we can invest the money & convert this into equity when the team actually secures a 2nd round of funding (where typically the teams are then valued externally).

We also give the teams fantastic mentors, coaches and business advisors for the time they’re with us, and we actively help them with connections to the Angel Investor & VC community.

Lastly – and in some ways most importantly, we give them access to the Telefonica network. This could be in the form of our experts within the business, Telefonica could trial the start-ups technology or product, or even roll the idea out to the customer base. Telefonica could provide potential access to over 300 million customers worldwide, and in growth markets too in Latin America.

In return for all these things, we ask for right of first refusal on future rounds of funding (in order to protect our equity), right of first refusal to launch to Telefonica customers first (this is not exclusivity – in fact we encourage our startups to sell their products to all operators – we just want Telefonica to be first!), and we ask for 1 person from the founder team to be in the Academy full time. Ideally we prefer to have the whole team in the Academy as that gives them the best chance of accelerating their idea as quickly and holistically as possible.

Is there a specific type of startups that should be particularly interested in it?

We often get asked whether Wayra is only suitable for mobile or telecommunications start-ups. Put simply, the answer is not at all! Wayra’s mission is simple – to find the best digital talent in the world and accelerate their businesses. We’ve invested in everything from cloud-based solutions to wearable technology to med-tech and ed-tech start-ups, even one start-up that uses sim technology to help farmers understand in advance when their cows are the most fertile!

What we’re looking for are passionate teams who really believe in what they’re doing. Wayra is like a family, and we really look for both teams and team players because there are 10 start-ups in each Wayra Academy at any one time (except for London, which has 20 spaces) and the environment is very collaborative and our teams often help each other out.

HTW: What should we expect from the event? What’s going to happen tonight?

AP: We will show a short video, and then I will talk a little bit about the program and answer any questions the audience may have. Then it will be drinks and networking afterwards in case anyone prefers to talk one-on-one instead of asking questions in front of the crowd. We’re keen to keep things casual and friendly, as long as everyone gets a chance to ask us any questions they may have 🙂

HTW: You’ve already organized similar events in quite a few European cities. What’s your experience so far? Maybe dos and don’ts for the entrepreneurs attending? Do you come prepared to be pitched till you bleed? 🙂

AP: The tour has been fantastic! We’ve managed to fit in eight cities in 10 days including Berlin, Vienna, Bratislava, Zagreb, London, Tallinn, Ljubljana, Warsaw and of course Bucharest. We’ve seen some amazingly talented and passionate people, and we hope we see lots of applications to the Prague Academy as a result.

In terms of being pitched, we are very happy to talk to as many entrepreneurs as we can about their businesses – that’s what we’re here for after all! 🙂

The only advice I would give would be to remember that we don’t personally judge the applications – it’s an online application form which they can fill out at www.wayra.org/en/joinus but remember they must apply for midnight on Monday Jan 21st for the current global call!”

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